Proposed Bill of Rights for Homeless Citizens of Florida
Legislative intent. It is the long-standing policy of this State that no person should suffer unnecessarily from cold or hunger, be deprived of shelter or the basic rights incident to shelter, or be subject to unfair discrimination based on his or her homeless status. At the present time, many persons have been rendered homeless as a result of economic hardship, a severe shortage of safe and affordable housing, and a shrinking social safety net. No person should suffer unnecessarily or be subject to unfair discrimination based on his or her homeless status. It is the intent of this chapter to ameliorate the adverse effects visited upon individuals and our communities when the state’s residents lack a home.
Bill of Rights
No person's rights, privileges, or access to public services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless. Every person, regardless of housing status, has the following rights:
(1) the right to use and move freely in public spaces, including but not limited to public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, and public buildings, in the same manner as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status;
(2) the right to equal treatment by all State and municipal agencies, without discrimination on the basis of housing status;
(3) the right to erect shelter for the purpose of survival.
(4) the right to rest in, sleep in, or use for purposes of shelter, any legally parked motor vehicle.
(5) the right not to face discrimination while maintaining employment due to his or her lack of permanent mailing address, or his or her mailing address being that of a shelter or social service provider;
(6) the right to emergency medical care free from discrimination based on his or her housing status;
(7) the right to vote, register to vote, and receive documentation necessary to prove identity for voting without discrimination due to his or her housing status;
(8) the right to protection from disclosure of his or her records and information provided to homeless shelters and service providers to State, municipal, and private entities without appropriate legal authority; and the right to confidentiality of personal records and information in accordance with all limitations on disclosure established by the federal Homeless Management Information Systems, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the federal Violence Against Women Act; and
(9) the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.
(10) the right to give food or water to others, and the right to eat, share and accept food and water in public spaces.
(11) the right to give shelter to assist those in need by helping them find shelter.
This resolution provides recognition that all human beings, regardless of housing status, have the same basic needs to defecate, urinate, access clean water and other living necessities. Those individuals with housing resources have the opportunity to perform these functions with dignity and relative privacy under hygienic circumstances and conditions. The homeless require access to free public resources to perform these functions. One of the most significant responsibilities of relevant local governments is the provision of clean, safe, and highly accessible facilities, free to all, to serve the defecation, urination, and clean water needs of the general public, including the unique needs of the homeless.
A notice entitled "DECLARATION OF HOMELESS PERSON’S BILL OF RIGHTS" and containing the text in this resolution will be conspicuously posted in all public parks and on the notice boards of all municipal buildings.
This resolution shall apply to county and municipal agencies and employees, including all law enforcement officers and officials, as well as private actors.
To ensure equitable and cost effective enforcement of the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights, every local law enforcement agency shall annually compile, review, and make available to any inquiring party, the number of citations, arrests, and other enforcement activities made pursuant to laws prohibiting the following:
1. Obstructing a sidewalk, whether by a person or personal property;
4. Lying down;
6. Public lodging;
7. Sleeping in a public place;
8. Soliciting donations;
9. Soliciting donations at certain restricted locations, including citing people for panhandling;
10. Bathing in public places;
11. Sharing or receiving food;
12. Inhabiting or sleeping in a vehicle;
13. Violating public park closure laws;
14. Trespassing, unless the trespassing charge is coupled with any other misdemeanor or felony.
15. Preparing and/or cooking food.
For the purposes of this resolution, “homeless” means lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate residence, or having a primary residence in a shelter, on the street, in a vehicle, in an enclosure or structure that is not authorized or fit for human habitation, substandard apartments, dwellings, doubled up temporarily with friends or families, staying in transitional housing programs, staying anywhere without tenancy rights, or staying with one or more children of whom they are the parent or legal guardian in a residential hotel whether or not they have tenancy rights.
Damages and attorney's fees. In any civil action alleging a violation of this Act, the court may award appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief, actual damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff.